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Sheri Melander-Smith, Ms. Wheelchair America, files official protest against the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ plan to award a distributor a monopoly for medically-necessary incontinence products

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 @ 09:07 AM  posted by jbuytaert

Ms. Melander-Smith joins a growing coalition of legislators, advocates, providers, caregivers, and patients working to prevent the award of the Department of Human Services’ (DHS’s) monopoly Preferred Incontinence Product Program procurement

(SAINT PAUL, MN) – Ms. Wheelchair America, Sheri Melander-Smith of Chanhassen, Minnesota, today filed an official protest against DHS’s Preferred Incontinence Product Program (PIPP), which would award a single company a monopoly on distributing medically-necessary incontinence products to Minnesota Medicaid patients. The PIPP is opposed by disability advocates, providers, legislative leaders in both parties, and Governor Dayton.

“If DHS succeeds in giving a single corporation a monopoly, the health and dignity of Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens will be put at risk. Patients will have reduced access to high-quality incontinence products, while costs will likely go up,” said Melander-Smith. “I’m proud to join with the disability community in the fight against this unnecessary and dangerous program that puts patients at risk.”

The PIPP would designate a single monopoly distributor of medically-necessary incontinence products to Minnesota Medicaid patients. Ms. Melander-Smith’s protest further details the potential harm of the program to the disability community, including Minnesotans like her.

Ms. Melander-Smith also signed onto a legal petition requesting that DHS initiate an official rulemaking process before the Office of Administrative Hearings. A bipartisan group of 10 Minnesota legislators recently signed a letter of support for the petition. The petition was filed with an Administrative Law Judge, who has 30 days to respond and determine whether to require a formal rulemaking process.

“It’s a shame this protest is even necessary: the widespread opposition of those DHS is meant to serve should be enough for them to reconsider this troubling path,” Ms. Melander-Smith added.

Language to repeal PIPP was included in the 2018 Supplemental Budget Bill, which Governor Dayton vetoed in May.

Ms. Melander-Smith began her career as a fashion model, before a vascular malformation on her spine left her paralyzed. Since then, she has devoted her life to serving as an advocate for the disability community. She has worked as an analyst in children’s mental health in Hennepin County, and served as a Principal Planning Analyst for Metropolitan Health Plan, Hennepin County’s public healthcare system. Ms. Melander-Smith has also served as a motivational speaker, and hosted Living Forward, a TV show that focused on how people with disabilities can live the best life possible. She earned a Master’s Degree in Psychology from UCLA, as well as an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. Ms. Melander-Smith also served in a leadership position on the board of the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living.

Ms. Melander-Smith was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2018. Ms. Wheelchair America is devoted to recognizing the accomplishments of women who utilize wheelchairs for mobility and aims to increase public awareness so that all citizens will be afforded the opportunities to lead productive and meaningful lives.

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